August 24, 2017. A friend and I arrive in Murghab, Tajikistan, after an eight hour-long drive full of tea-drinking pauses at random houses, helping broken cars on the extremely solitary Pamir Highway, and experiencing a headache caused by the 4000-metre altitude. Our driver, Shurik, the nicest driver in Tajikistan, has a mouth full of golden teeth, but he is one of the rare people that actually looks good in it. Actually, the only one so far. The road is beautiful, but tiring, so we go to bed right after dinner.
I wake up at five thirty the next morning and the sun is already shining, ready to greet us. After breakfast someone knocks on our door. I open and there is an unknown man asking for me. It turns out that he is Ozod, the father of one of our Tajik friends, who works here and who kindly offers to show us around the town for a bit.
Murghab is full of electricity poles and lines, a sad reminiscence from the Soviet Union, when this town was a lively city with electricity for everyone, a local cultural club and a cinema. Now electricity is only for those who have obtained generators, and the last remainder of the cinema is an old and rusty sign that says Kino in Cyrillic.
So as not to paint this picture too grey, I have to mention that they are slowly building a hydroelectric station, and a new school building is under construction.
I really love the open-air markets of Central Asia, so I get very excited when Ozod tells us that there is one in Murghab. Before he leaves us to go about his daily routine, he warns me that this one most likely won’t meet my expectations. He’s right. While I expected a bustling bazaar full of people trying to sell their watermelons, dresses, scarves, toilet paper, candies, potatoes – everything you can and can not imagine, this market almost feels as abandoned as the town itself. Vendors hide in their cargo containers and the variety of products are not very rich.
Located in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by desert-like landscape with huge mountains all around the horizon. Brown and white houses with blue window frames and doors, a bright sun that makes my eyes hurt, endless electrical lines, wind, sand and solitude. There are only a few people on the streets, Murghab is the most surreal town I have ever seen.
Although Murghab is a Tajik town, it’s mostly populated by Kyrgyzs. We notice three Kyrgyz kids playing in the yard next to a yurt. They see us too, run to us and ask for chocolate. We don’t have any.
Except for the group of kids, the streets are empty. The suddenly call to prayer from a mosque, does not disrupt the tranquility of the place.
Here we also find a beautiful statue of Lenin. In fact, if anyone wants to go on a Lenin hunt, Central Asia is the perfect place for it. There are so many statues of Lenin in different shapes and sizes but this one, the Lenin of Murghab, is my favourite. White and gallant with a coat that appears to be flowing in the wind.
Around four o’clock, it starts to get very windy and chilly. It’s time to wrap up our little walk around Murghab and leave Lenin alone to fight the sandstorms.
Solveiga Kaļva originally from Riga, Latvia, is a student of Folkloristics and Applied Heritage Studies Masters Program at the University of Tartu, Estonia. Her interests include writing, photography, art, music. She also runs a travel blog.